Benjamin Cousins, former general manager at Battlefield Heroes developer Easy Studio, has unveiled The Drowning, a “console-quality” free-to-play FPS for iPhone and iPad controlled with just two fingers.
Speaking to Eurogamer, Cousins says that The Drowning, due early next year for iOS devices with an Android version to follow, has “highly accurate and fast” controls. You swipe to look around, and tap to move. You shoot by tapping the screen with two fingers, removing the need for a reticule.
“You can pop headshots off guys who are a really long way away, and that’s something that’s almost impossible to do with a virtual stick,” Cousins says. “In some respects it’s better than playing with a controller because we’ve got more accurate shooting and faster aiming.”
What, then, of that “console-quality” claim? Cousins admits that The Drowning outperforms current-gen consoles in some respects – on a Retina display it runs at 2048×1536 at 30 frames a second – but falls short in others.
“These devices, however, draw fewer polygons,” he says, “and they’re not able to do all of the post-processing effects you would have on a high-end console game. So it’s swings and roundabouts. In some aspects we’re surpassing current-gen consoles, but in some aspects we’re halfway between the previous gen and the current gen.”
Cousins, a long-standing proponent of free-to-play gaming, said in March that the next stage in the evolution of F2P was successfully monetising singleplayer games - and we’ll find out soon enough whether his studio Scattered Entertainment, the new name for Ngmoco Sweden, will be the one to do it. The Drowning has a ten-hour campaign, and in-app purchases, though Cousins says players will not be able to buy a single gun; instead, paying up increases your chance of finding parts that let you create, and upgrade, weapons.
Ambitious stuff all round, then – though Cousins admits The Drowning’s have had to be “simplified”. Reloading is automated, and despite using swipe and taps elsewhere the game does use the dreaded virtual buttons for switching weapons. “We realise we have to make concessions because of the interface of the device,” he says, “and how people play the game.”